Book Recommendations – June 2016

Welcome to my most requested List… Book Recommendations! And I wrote one TWO years ago and promised to do this monthly. Lies. But I am back again and going to give you a quick list to get back in the swing of things…a few books I’ve read since my last round of recommendations that I’ve started telling people to read. And again, I promise not to post spoilers in the descriptions if you promise not to post spoilers in the comments!

Affiliate Link disclaimer: If you click on the book, it will take you straight to my Amazon affiliate link so you can order…and ordering from my link enables me to buy more books. All of which I’ll tell you about in future lists. Isn’t Amazon grand?

1. Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline

It sounds terribly sad (a train of orphans? wahhhh) but I promise this is a captivating novel that will pull at your hearts strings as you follow the journey of two different young women, at two different periods in our history. The story follows both Vivian, a Depression-era young girl and her struggles on the Orphan Train (yes, it was a real part of our American history; the trains used to bring children from our crowded East coast cities out to the rural Midwest), as well as Molly, a teenager in our modern-day foster care system.

2. I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai

If you are not familiar with the story of Malala Yousafzai, you should be. Malala became the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace prize in 2014, in recognition for her fight against the suppression of children and her work towards the education of all children, worldwide, regardless of gender. Her memoir chronicles her life in Pakistan, explains why she is a champion for children’s education, specifically young women’s, and reveals the aftermath of when she was shot by the Taliban in 2012. The extensive details of Pakistani history can be cumbersome, but we can all find inspiration in her message and story.

PS: Be careful purchasing this one if you decide to not just click on the handy dandy photo of the book above – there is also a “young readers” edition for children that is less detailed. The cover looks similar and is marked “Young Reader’s Edition” but it is an easy mistake to make.


3. Red Rising, by Pierce Brown

Ender’s Game meets The Hunger Games. It’s a Science Fictionish Fantasyish and Young Adultish (the main character is 16 at the beginning of the trilogy but it doesn’t read like a YA novel) and combines a revolutionary war with space travel, historical Roman & Martian society and class oppression. A tale as old as time, right? I know this one sounds very niche (where my ancient Roman history Sci Fi readers at?!) but the trilogy feels fresh and like nothing I’ve ever read before while combining a compelling story line of friendship, war and intrigue.

4. The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

Another historical novel, this one is a page turner but not because its a thriller – because it is a really well-written story. We follow two sisters in German-occupied France during World War 2 – one joins the Resistance, one follows the rules and permits her home to be occupied by a Nazi captain. PS: It reminded me of another Kristin Hannah novel, Winter Garden – an excellent story, strong female characters and just the right amount of pulling on my heart strings.

5. The Girl on the Train

Wait, didn’t she already write about a train? Sure did. But The Girl on the Train is very, very different from Orphan Train. This novel is more along the lines of Gone Girl (you can read my recommendation for that here) and is a page-turning thriller. And just like Gone Girl, it is coming to a movie theater near you in October!

But you all know the rules around here – the book is better so read the book first!


Alright. There’s a few new books for you to add to your shelf and let me know when you read them! I plan on writing a few more book lists over the upcoming months, with drafts already created for Young Adult, Fantasy, Memoir and All Time Favorites!

What genre of book list would you like me to write next? Have you read any of these books?

Running Mix Tape


I love making mix tapes. I realize they’re not tapes anymore – but a burned CD featuring a compilation of songs chosen by me…well that will forever be called a mix tape in my mind. I still make them all the time, and often give them away so I thought I’d share a few here on the blog. And of course I’ll be starting with my very eclectic Running Mix, featuring songs about running and movement…or just say the word “run” or “move” a lot.

1. Going the Distance – Cake  

Sample Lyric:

Reluctantly crouched at the starting line
Engines pumping and thumping in time
The green light flashes, the flags go up
Churning and burning, they yearn for the cup

2. Ready to Run – Dixie Chicks

Sample Lyric:

Oh yeah
Ready, ready, ready, ready, ready to run
All I’m ready to do is have some fun
What’s all this talk about love

3. Run the World (Girls) – Beyonce

Sample Lyric:

It’s hot up in here
DJ don’t be scared to run this, run this back
I’m repping for the girls who taking over the world
Have me raise a glass for the college grads

4. Run Around – Blues Traveler

Sample Lyric:

But you
Why you wanna give me a run-around
Is it a sure-fire way to speed things up
When all it does is slow me down

5. Run This Town – Jay-Z

Sample Lyric:

Victory’s within the mile
Almost there, don’t give up now
Only thing that’s on my mind
Is who’s gonna run this town tonight

6. Dog Days Are Over – Florence and the Machine

Sample Lyric:

Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father
Run for your children, for your sisters and brothers
Leave all your love and your longing behind
You can’t carry it with you if you want to survive

7. Run Rabbit Run – Eminem

Sample Lyric:

I found my niche, You gon’ hear my voice
‘Til you’re sick of it, you ain’t gonna have a choice
If I gotta scream ’til I have half a lung
If I have half a chance, I’ll grab it, Rabbit Run!

8. Move Along – All-American Rejects

Sample Lyric:

When all you got to keep is strong
Move along, move along like I know you do
And even when your hope is gone
Move along, move along just to make it through

9. Bust a Move – Young MC

Sample Lyric:

She’s dressed in yellow, she says “Hello,
Come sit next to me you fine fellow.”
You run over there without a second to lose
And what comes next hey bust a move

10. Pon De Replay – Rihanna

Sample Lyric:

Run, run, run, run
Everybody move run
Lemme see you move and
Rock it til the grooves done

Alright, there’s my 10 best running-themed songs… guaranteed to constantly remind you to keep moving while you’re working out!

Did I miss your favorite running-themed song? Anything you would add? 

Soundtracks that Rock


I don’t know if anyone has seen this little Indie film, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy — but its sort of killing it in the box office and one of the big reasons seems to be its awesome soundtrack. So I wanted to dedicate this particular list to soundtracks, specifically soundtracks featuring songs that are also performed by the films’ stars… because there’s already too many lists dedicated to the awesomeness of the Top Gun or Titantic soundtracks.

1. Grease

Definitely a predictable choice – but there’s a reason this film has stayed popular for over 30 years and I think the catchiness of songs that still resonate with teenagers is why. I recently pulled up to a red light and saw some teenage girls singing along to “Summer Nights” and I couldn’t help but smile because we did the same thing in high school.

2. Mary Poppins

Julie Andrews and Dick van Dyke? If you don’t sing along with this entire movie, you can go fly a kite.

3. Men in Black/Wild Wild West

Note to readers: The good guys dress in black, remember that in case we ever face to face and make contact (that was all from memory, don’t judge me). Will Smith walks in shadows and moves in silence while fighting aliens AND strolled through the Wild, Wild West with Sisqo. The man is a legend. Additional Sidenote: The Wild Wild West soundtrack also features Enrique Iglesias… Bailamos (let the rhythm take you over). Yup, you all just sang it.

4. Above the Rim

2Pac stood out in this film as both an actor and an excellent contributor to an amazing soundtrack. Plus, this soundtrack gave us Warren G’s “Regulate.” And everyone loves that song.

5. The Bodyguard/ Waiting to Exhale

Whitney. Such an icon that you only need a first name. One of the most talented singers of all time and lost far too early. The Bodyguard soundtrack is still one of my all-time favorites and the Waiting to Exhale album also features Brandy, Toni Braxton, Aretha Franklin, Mary J. Blige… I mean, that’s a soundtrack.

6. High School Musical

Listen, it’s one of the most downloaded soundtracks of all time. Sooo… Get’cha head in the game and don’t judge me. Oh, and my cousin bestie Liz recommended this one. She has excellent taste.

7. Frozen/Tangled

Oh, Disney. You just get me. Both of these recent soundtracks really get everything right. The songs are wonderful and creative, the actors and actresses are musically talented and both scores are amazing. I’ll never let them go.

Honorable Boring Mentions:

Purple Rain and Blue Hawaii – Yeah, Prince and Elvis. I just don’t get the obsessed fans. But I appreciate them.

Help!/A Hard’s Day Night/Any Beatles movie – Now the Beatles I do understand the obsession – I just thought it was too predictable for my list considering the movies are basically just long music videos.

If you want to buy any of these soundtracks (you should) you can click on the albums and use my affiliate link to order through Amazon.

Alright, these are the soundtracks I love that features the actors and actresses that I love! And I can’t take full credit for this one – it was a request from my cousin Don and he contributed several ideas – thank you!

What soundtracks feature an actress or actor that rocks that you’d add to my list? Disagree with any of my choices? 


July Book Recommendations

Welcome to my most requested List… Book Recommendations! I am going to do this monthly, and am kicking it off with some summer reading – books I’ve read recently-ish (over the past few years) that have become my “go to” suggestions for people looking to read a book they can’t put down and aren’t necessarily genre-specific. I promise not to post spoilers in the descriptions if you promise not to post spoilers in the comments!

These aren’t in any particular order – just books I’ve read and suggest you do as well! If you click on the book, it will take you straight to my Amazon affiliate link so you can order…and ordering from my link enables me to buy more books. All of which I’ll tell you about in future lists. Isn’t Amazon grand?

1. Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

A thriller with enough twists to keep even someone like me (who consumes far too much media, thus is hard to surprise) guessing! Be sure to read this book BEFORE October when the movie is released starring Ben Affleck. Remember, Class: We read the book first. I know Ben Affleck is a dreamboat and whatnot, but this novel is so excellent its worthy of reading before the film. You know, like all books.

2. What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures, by Malcolm Gladwell

This is a collection of Gladwell’s essays that he has written for The New Yorker over many years. Gladwell has written more famous books (Outsiders, The Tipping Point, Blink), but I always recommend What the Dog Saw as a perfect introduction to his writing that you can pick up and put down. The book’s essays examine everything from intelligence tests and ethnic profiling, to why there are many varieties of mustard but only one variety of ketchup.

 3. The Art of Fielding, by Chad Hardbach

I was hesitant to put this on my list, as it’s a little deeper and “Book Club” ish than a summer read, but here goes: This book that’s not really about baseball could be hit or miss (ha, see what I did there) for many readers. True, it’s main protagonist is a baseball player, but the novel is actually character and relationship-driven. The downside is that there’s a few parts that feel long and sluggish. I didn’t think I would end up enjoying it after reading the first 50 pages or so, but the author does a fantastic job developing the characters and made me invested in their futures.

4. 11/22/63, by Stephen King

At 753 pages, this is no light read! But it is King doing what he does best – writing a captivating story unlike one I’ve ever read. 11/22/63 follows a man who attempts to go back in time and prevent the assassination of JFK while examining the consequences of changing time. If you’re willing to commit to the length, this book is awesome.

5. Here I Go Again, by Jen Lancaster

Time travel? Again? Well this one isn’t exactly 11/22/63. A perfect beach read, this follows former high school Queen Bee Lissy Ryder, who goes back in time to try and fix her life, karma and mean girl reputation. I love everything Jen Lancaster has written because no matter what she always keeps me laughing.

6. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

Technically a young adult novel, it follows the story of a young girl in World War 2 who steals books and her foster father uses them to teach her how to read. It is beautifully written and the narrator provides for an interesting perspective (no spoilers here on who narrates). It isn’t going to make you laugh, but it will make you think. And maybe make you cry. (PS: Oh, and obviously they made it into a movie – I repeat: Read the book).

7. Defending Jacob, by William Landay

A legal crime thriller, Defending Jacob is about a Boston suburb ADA who investigates the murder of a boy in his son’s class until evidence suggests his son, Jacob, is the primary suspect. The story follows Jacob’s parents’ love of their son, as well as examines whether a propensity for violence can be genetic. Excellent read and a page-turner until the very end. (PS: It’s not a movie yet…but I’m sure it will be… read it now and be a trendsetter!)

8. The Jefferson Key, by Steve Berry

I love Steve Berry and his books featuring Cotton Malone are my favorite. He mixes history and fiction to create captivating, beach read stories that I can’t put down. The Jefferson Key links several assassination attempts of U.S. presidents and the group behind them, and follows Cotton Malone as he tries to solve a cipher once used by Thomas Jefferson. If you liked the film National Treasure, you’ll love Steve Berry.


Pin this image to share Live, Laugh, List’s Book Recommendations!

Okay, these are some books that should keep you turning pages while at the beach. Next month I want to dive in to a different genre or theme. What would you like to see next? Young Adult? My All-Time Favorites? Non-Fiction? Comment below with your future book list requests!